Santa visited our house when I was a kid. I was suspicious when he arrived in a cab. Nowadays, kids can go online to check their naughty/nice rating. There's even a Santa tracker that shows his location on Christmas Eve via GPS.

Many of us will be downloading Santa's gift to our phones or tablets.

While music will likely be most popular, there are many smartphone and tablet apps available for the gardener.

Leafsnap visually identifies trees and it's free. Currently, it is limited to trees in the Northeast but will eventually cover the United States. The database contains stunning high-resolution close-up photos and many varieties that also grow in the Lowcountry. In order to identify a tree, a leaf needs to be photographed on a white background and your smartphone or tablet needs access to the Internet. The outline is compared to samples in the Leafsnap database and then gives a list of possible matches.

Four of the six I uploaded were correctly identified and located via GPS in my backyard. However, since it relies on the leaf's shape, it has a greater success rate with unique outlines, such as a sweetgum. As this app is refined and expanded, it will become a great tool for horticulturists.

Dirr's Tree and Shrub Finder app costs about $15 and is a must-have for horticulturists. Michael Dirr is a leading authority on trees and shrubs and this app does not disappoint. It includes plants from all over the country, including photos and detailed information. The app also features a search function that allows the user to find plants based on selected criteria, such as color, shade tolerance, size and so on.

Audubon guides (from free to $19.99) are useful for identification, too. The tree app has many great photos and information, but is limited to trees. There's also an insect and spider guide that is useful but general. I'd be more interested in one more focused on plant pests.

iScape ($4.99) is an imaging app that allows the user to digitally add plants, mulch and hardscapes to a photo to create a virtual garden. The free version allows the user access to a limited database of images but the pay version is much larger.

As an imaging program, it lacks functionality compared to personal computer products. However, it is only a tenth of the price and mobile, allowing the user to quickly create a realistic design alongside the client. It's also very user-friendly. It can be learned in minutes.

The Lighting app ($7.99) is an imaging app for landscape lighting. The app will make a photo appear as if it was night. Fixtures can be selected for different lighting effects, such as uplighting, downlighting and path lighting. The app is quick and easy to learn. In minutes, you can see what your landscape will look like with low-voltage lights. For the advanced low-voltage lighting technician, there is a voltage calculator that estimates the voltage drop based on wire gauge, wire length and number of watts.

The HolidayScape app (99 cents) focuses on Christmas lighting and decorations. It can help a homeowner visualize different effects before purchasing lights and also could help a landscaper sell a holiday-lighting service.

There are a few free apps for lawns but they are mostly limited to identification of turf, weeds, insects and diseases so it is mostly a simplified digital manual.

However, there are some useful apps that help calculate fertilizer applications and cost.

Currently, I haven't found any apps to recommend for methods of pest/disease control.

I would like to see an app that gives users the ability to enter a problem, such as gray mold disease on pansies, and find all the possible solutions.

It would be nice to click on the pesticide to have access to the label and material safety datasheet.

Crop Data Management Systems ( has database of pesticide labels but the mobile app requires a subscription.

Tony Bertauski is a horticulture instructor at Trident Technical College. To give feedback, email him at